Gallery: Avalon International Breads Expands to 'Food Desert' on East Side
June 27th, 2016, 2:57 PM
When the founders of Avalon International Breads decided to set up shop in Midtown 19 years ago, they were called crazy. But they ignored those sentiments, plus warnings that the area wasn't ready for a building with windows.
"We said 'what are they going to do? Steal our flour and our oven?'" co-founder Jackie Victor said.
Two decades later, Midtown is thriving, and so is Avalon at 422 W. Willis Street, just off of Cass Avenue.
Now, they're turning once again to neighborhood off the beaten path. They recently opened the Betline Bakery Outlet at 4731 Bellevue, near Mack Avenue and Mt. Elliott on Detroit's east side.
The retail outlet, attached to a production facility they opened in 2013, sells a variety of day-old breads for a reduced price of about three dollars, along with fresh, regular-priced bakery goods, sandwiches and salads. They also have a coffee happy hour daily from 8-9 a.m. where they serve their homemade blend, called Hearth and Soul, to customers for free. The store is currently open weekdays.
"It's a food desert—there's no fresh, affordable food in this area that is available to the public at all," Victor said.
Victor said they fell in love with the spot when they first opened the production facility in 2013, which also produces breads and bake goods for grocery stores and coffee shops around town.
As for retailers, the bakery is only retailer in the immediate area. Victor said she knew they could be the first to establish a community hearth where people could connect over comfort food.
The offbeat location helps create friendships between employees and regulars -- partly because there's less traffic than at the Midtown store, which creates a small-town feel.
Kelley Satterwhite, the company's finance manager, said she hopes to have regular clients who buy breakfast, lunch and dinner there, like they have at the Midtown location.
Satterwhite, who began working for Avalon in 2010, said the founders have a knack for predicting the next up-and-coming areas.
"It's the same way as it was 17-18 years ago with Midtown—the whole area is developing, you just have to give it a chance," Satterwhite said.
"People accepted the assumption that because there was no business, there could be no business," said Victor. "We challenged that narrative."